Full transcript of the interview with Iranian President aired LIVE on RT from Tehran on August 13.
RT: President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to be on RT International tonight for the next half-hour or so to answer a number of questions I would like to put to you and get your latest thoughts on domestic issues and international issues. I will start if I may with the story that's unfolded in the North Africa and the Middle East that's been dubbed the 'Arab Spring' and which has made all the news headlines for the past six months that's . What are your views on the 'Arab Spring'? You have spoken before but I just wanted to hear your latest thoughts. Do you think it is a popular uprising for the better to bring democracy or do you think it is something that maybe has been orchestrated from abroad? Over to you, sir.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: First of all let me say hello to the viewers of your channel. We're now in the month of Ramadan in Iran and we enjoy the blessings of Allah for all human beings during this month; and in this great month Allah determines the destiny of human beings for the next year. This month is the month of passion and kindness and I hope all human beings behave kindly to each other and they will all enjoy divine blessings. You asked very important questions. We have seen very important developments in our region and in North Africa. There are some very important things we must pay attention to. It is not only the people in the region but the entire global community is not satisfied with the current status in the world. The current situation in the world is not fair. There are class distinctions, there are pressures, there are conflicts, armed conflicts, and a large number of nations in the world are being humiliated all the time. Today justice and dignity are among the requirements of all human beings. All nations are seeking to gain justice and nations in our region and North Africa has the same aspirations; and I think that nations in North Africa and our region have the ability to run their own countries and they have the ability to reach their goals and objectives. It is important to take note of the interference of NATO in the region. NATO has interfered in the affairs of Libya. The Security Council has made a mistake. Instead of sending bombs and planes to Libya, they should have sent mediation groups in order to prepare for free elections under the auspices of the UN. And whoever won the elections would be acceptable for the people. But the Security Council hastily issued a resolution and it has complicated the situation that has led to the killings and the massacre of people and the destruction of infrastructure in the country.
RT: Can you highlight for me why you've had slightly different approaches since the unrest in Syria and what was going on in Egypt at the time just before Hosni Mubarak stepped down? I am quoting you, you "urged Egyptians to continue their protest to free themselves and choose their own leaders and their own form of government." Why can't that happen in Syria as well, what is the difference?
MA: It is not only about us. It is not only Iran that has a different view. There are many countries that have a different attitude. For example, the US and Europe have different attitudes towards the situations in Libya, Bahrain and Syria. There are different positions; this is because of the nature of regional equations and the kind of attitude taken by the outside powers.
RT: Do you think Iran needs to liberalize, do you think you should introduce more political reforms to maybe head off something similar happening in your country as well at some point in the future. Does it worry you at all?
MA: I think the entire world needs more freedom and more than everybody else in the world the Europeans and the Americans need freedom. In Europe, is there freedom really? Is there real freedom in the United States? They are beating people in the streets.
RT: I take in what you say, sir, but there are real concerns about human rights issues in this country as well, the UN's concerned, a lot of international organizations are concerned. You also have your former Prime Minister, Mir-Hossein Mousavi, and the former House Speaker under house arrest now. Why are the Iranian authorities seemingly so reluctant to take on more democracy, to hear the voice of the people more? We saw all the demonstrations in your disputed elections at the time of your last election in 2009. Do you think some changes should be made in your country?
MA: What do you think about the percentages of people that should participate in the election, what do you think about the election turnout? 85 per cent, is that a low record for the election? There are 35 kinds of democracies in the world. English democracy and German democracies are different; and American democracy and Russian democracy. Iran is also a democracy. I think the problem of human rights is a universal one. In Europe, the rights of human beings are being violated. There is also the same situation in the United States, in Asia, in Africa. The rights of human beings are not being observed fully and completely. Do you know any country in the world that has observed human rights completely? No. But you have mentioned certain names and I think our judiciary has given sufficient explanation about the situation. We have an independent judiciary and we have very transparent legal proceedings. If someone violates the law, the judiciary is responsible for making the necessary legal procedures and legal investigations. No one can give orders to our judiciary, and I can't. They are independent.
RT: One last quick question about this, do you think the dissenting voice in your country, of which there are quite a lot, are listened to? Do you pay attention to them? Do you pay any heed to what they have to say to you?
MA: I think we have more freedom in Iran than other countries and their voices are heard more than in other countries. I am among the people and I am in close contact with the people. We have mass media, we have free press and they criticize the government; but if you think I am going to say we have an ideal situation, where in the world can you find a fully ideal country? Iran is among the best countries in the world in this respect. We have never said we are perfect. There should be no comparison.
RT: Let's now look at your neighbors and your relationship with some of your nearest neighbors – Bahrain, Yemen, Lebanon, Iraq, Palestine. Some of those countries have been complaining that you're meddling in their internal affairs. Do they have a point?
MA: Who are those countries?
RT: Well in March of this year in Bahrain you may recall you recalled your ambassador to this country after an Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman said it was unacceptable that there was a presence of foreign troops in Bahrain. Also in April the Gulf States – Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirate, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, and Oman – voiced deep concern at what they called Iranian interference in their affairs…
MA: Are you saying we've done a bad thing by telling Bahrain not to kill their people? What bad thing did we do? Do you call it interference? Who is using military force in Bahrain? Are we doing that? Who is interfering in the internal affairs of the region? Show me one place or one location in the world where Iranian military forces are present. There is no such place. The British forces, American forces, NATO forces, they are around us everywhere, they are surrounding Iran. And those same forces say Iran is interfering in the internal affairs of the region. What can we say to that?
RT: Let's talk now about you other neighbor Iraq, often referred to as your backyard – Iran's backyard – and of course a backyard that's seen an awful lot of action over the last 8 years. Now the Americans are pulling out, how would you gauge the last 8 years and what do you think of that comment that Iraq is your backyard?
MA: Iran and Iraq have a special relationship. We have a common history, our people marry each other. Many Iranians were born in Iraq and many Iraqis were born in Iran. Every year there is a lot of tourism between the two countries. There is a profound historical relationship between our two nations. For example with the Iraqi president, prime-minister, ministers. Shi’ites, Sunnis or Kurds, in the parliament – we are all friends. And they're also our friends. We have salvaged a very friendly relationship. We are seeking an independent and developed Iraq, which can enjoy its own sovereign rights. This would be the best situation for us. We are maintaining a very friendly relationship. We are increasing our ties, our cultural exchanges. We have more than 1,000 kilometers of boundaries, common borders with Iraq. And there’s a regular exchange of visits between officials from both sides. I do not think there is a problem between Iran and Iraq.
RT: Next subject I'd like to talk about tonight – the nuclear subject. You're always having to answer about it, I'd like to ask you about it again if I may. Only recently Iran's announced that you've stepped up production of new centrifuges, better centrifuges, faster to make better, higher quality uranium. The question mark is why? I know you have said all the way along the line that Iran does not want nuclear weapons, Iran is a peaceful country. But of course a lot of people in the West do not believe that, they do feel that there is not enough transparency. Do you think this country – you – should be doing more to make it more transparent?
MA: Do you really think the people in the West are concerned about that or is it the politicians?
RT: I think the people are concerned about our country eventually having a nuclear weapon, yes I do sir!
MA: We do not like it either that some countries have nuclear weapons. If we are going to be against nuclear weapons we must rise in opposition to current nuclear arsenals. There are now a lot of atomic arsenals in Belgium, Italy, in Germany, Japan. This places serious jeopardy against the international community.
RT: Are you saying that at some point in the future you may want to acquire a nuclear deterrent, a nuclear weapon?
MA: Never, never. We do not want nuclear weapons. We do not seek nuclear weapons. This is an inhumane weapon. Because of our beliefs we are against that. Firstly, our religion says it is prohibited. We are a religious people. Secondly, nuclear weapons have no capability today. If any country tries to build a nuclear bomb, they in fact waste their money and resources and they create great danger for themselves. The international equations are not determined by nuclear arsenals today. It’s about the life of human beings. The Americans have nuclear bombs and nuclear weapons and could they win in Iraq and Afghanistan? Could nuclear weapons help the Israelis to gain victory in Lebanon and Gaza? Could nuclear weapons save the former Soviet Union from collapse? Nuclear weapons are the weapons of the previous century. This century is the century of knowledge and thinking, the century of human beings, the century of culture and logic. Nuclear weapons are not going to be a determining force in the world. It is about the power of people, not weapons. Our goal in the country and the goal of our people is peace for all. Nuclear energy for all, and nuclear weapons for none. This is our goal. All nuclear activities in Iran are monitored by the IAEA. There have been no documents against Iran from the agency. It's just a claim by the US that we are after nuclear weapons. But they have no evidence that Iran is diverting resources to that purpose.
RT:I'd like to come back to another aspect of your nuclear program a little bit later, the civilian side of it, the Bushehr plant, we'll get to that in a minute. But let me stay with maybe possible aggression before that. Do you ever consider it possible that the US or Israel could make a strike against you? Launch military action… Does it worry you?
MA: They want to do it but they know our power. They know that we would give them a very decisive response.
RT: When you say a decisive response, what do you mean? Can you just outline what you're talking about?
MA: We would give them a crushing response. This is a normal reaction – we have a saying: if someone throws a small stone you reply with a bigger one. We will defend ourselves with our full capability. But I hope that will never come. There is no reason for war, why should they attack us?
RT: And the same regards Israel? There is no reason to make a first strike…a pre-emptive strike against them. Could you ever see that scenario?
MA: The case of the Zionist regime is different. It was created for the purpose of threats and aggression. It was created to secure the interest of the West. If the Zionist regime didn't terrorize, occupy or threaten, – it wouldn’t exist. They have been created solely for that purpose. And in the past 60 years they have always done the same thing. They have behaved in the same way. But anyway they can look at the world map and they can see Iran there and our history and our geopolitics.
RT: Bushehr power plant has been in development for long time. The official opening ceremony took place very recently, though it is not operationally on stream yet. You've got close relations with Russia. There is some financial dispute at the moment with Rosatom, which is a publicly owned corporation in Russia regarding Bushehr. They were helping you develop it. Could you give us an idea what that dispute is about? And more crucially is it likely to hold up the operational launch date of your nuclear power plant?
MA: I'm just hearing this from you. I have only just talked with President Medvedev. He said there is no obstacle to the operation starting on time. Naturally all necessary precautions must be taken…
RT: Obviously as a country you must be very much looking forward to the plant coming on stream to give you nuclear power. Do you know when that launch date will be when it feeds the grid?
MA: You see, it is ready and will launch fully, they say, before the end of the year, there is no problem. Of course it's part of the relationship between us and Russia. And of course that can be seen by the world community. And the entire international community watches how Russians are building our nuclear power plant.
RT: Let's talk about religion now. More and more we are hearing about different denominations – Sunni, Shia, Alawi – and the splits between them. Why is there so much speculation about sectarian splits within Islam?
MA: Is there any violence between Shia and Sunni? Where did you see that?
RT: There is more and more talk of it…
MA: There are differences between all human beings, always. We believe that religion is only one truth. God has not sent us Christianity, Islam or Judaism. They are not separate from each other. God has not made any decision among nations. God loves all human beings. And God has created all human beings on one equal basis. And religion was offered by the almighty Allah for the wellbeing of all humans. There is only one religion. Jesus Christ offered the same religion, but in proportion to the capacity of human beings of 2,000 years ago. And Moses offered the same religion but in proportion to the capacity of human beings 2,600 years ago. And the prophet of Islam offered the same religion. That one religion is a complete and perfect religion.
Is not there conflict and differences among Christians? Or between Christians and Jews? I think if somebody with the same quality as the prophets came to us from Allah, he would be able to give us the truth of religion. He will present the truth that there will be no gap, no difference and no dispute among human beings. Then we will see that Christians, Jews, Muslims, Catholics and Protestants will speak the same language, because the entire human community is seeking wellbeing. And the way to salvation has only one path.
RT: I'd like to focus on China – a fast-developing country, actively promoting itself here in Iran at the moment. How do you see Iranian development? Do you think you'll be selling more of your energy to China in future?
MA: We have a two-way relationship. Iran and China are two important and large countries and they enjoy centuries-old civilizations and cultures. We've always maintained friendly ties and today we have identical views on international development. But the common denominator in our relationship is based on peace, justice and security for all.
RT: What I want to ask you about is your relationship with Russia. It has always been very good, but also shaky when for the first time Russia decided to go with sanctions imposed here, you said it was unacceptable. What are your relations with Russia now?
MA: Iran and Russia are two neighbors. Geographically we will always remain neighbors, we cannot change that reality because we cannot move our land. We must be friends and we must remain friends, and we should understand our languages, we have much in common and there is nothing that we have in common that is a threat to any country, but an interest to all nations. We must be in a position to make use of all these resources and common views. Earlier, I had very good talks with Mr. Putin and also very useful discussions with President Medvedev. I hope we'll be able to expand our bilateral relations, especially with regard to the present global economic and political changes. Iran and Russia can offer common solutions to the current international issues. And the two sides must develop their ties and contacts and hopefully we'll be able to quickly increase the level of our relations.
RT: In 2013, you'll be coming to the end of your second and final presidential term. You've been extremely busy in the last eight years. What are you going to do then? What are you looking forward to do and what will you miss about the job?
MA: I see a bright future for the whole world, a brilliant future is awaiting the world when its people will think globally and we all learn to love each other. And we understand the importance of justice so that all human beings will be able to participate in making the world; and there will be just and global governance. The future is very bright, we have free elections in our country, whoever is elected by the people will be the right one and this is the right of our nation. They have the right to freely elect anybody they wish and I will help them. I am a university professor and I have kept this job and profession, and I will continue to serve the nation anywhere and at the university. There will be no problem.
RT: What will you most miss about the job and what have you most enjoyed about it?
RT: Thank you so much for taking the time to be with RTI. I know your time is precious, it is very much appreciated.
MA: I just want to say one sentence for your viewers. We really love all human beings: language, race, color of skin does not matter. Wherever there is a human being, there's someone that must be respected. We're really sad when we see discrimination and poverty in the world. Hopefully there will come a day when there's no discrimination or poverty. We are very sad that the world is suffering from conflicts and hope that peace will prevail in the world. This is the history of our country – peace, wellbeing, security and friendship for all, respect for all. This is not going to happen unless we all unite, we should all be together to build a better tomorrow – and that day will come.
RT: Mr. President, thank you very much.